With Kiwi coach Milton Haig in charge, Georgia should have a good performance this autumn. They have an interesting pool draw and should (always dangerous to predict but…) finish in third place, which would automatically qualify them for 2019. However, the sympathy should be reserved for the poor Rugby Commentators dealing with such Georgian surnames at high speed!
Captain: Irakli Machkhaneli
Player to Watch: Davit Zirakashvili, who has been doing sterling play at Clermont Auvergne with some outstanding scrummaging. With 45 caps to his name, he is one of the key players to steer this team through the pool matches.
Dates of Pool Matches:
Saturday 19th September vs Tonga – Kick off 12.00 – Kingsholm, Gloucester
Friday 25th September vs Argentina – Kick off 16.45 – Kingsholm, Gloucester
Friday 2nd October vs New Zealand – Kick off 20.00 – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Wednesday 7th October vs Namibia – Kick off 20.00 – Sandy Park, Exeter
For more details on Georgian Rugby http://www.rugby.ge
For full details follow: http://www.rugbyworldcup.com
What to Eat & drink whilst watching the Lelos
Food: The first thing to understand is that the Georgians are amazingly hospitable people and they take celebrating very seriously! They hold a huge number of feasts where dish after dish appears. Feasts also include a lot of singing – and a LOT of toasts being made by every member of the party – taken from a Georgian drinking Horn, which is quite an art after a copious amount of wine. I could not find an authentic Georgian drinking horn in the UK but try this website for a suitable alternative (http://www.horncraft.co.uk) – it will certainly make your Georgian match party be memorable. Gaumarjos is a great word to use as a toast!
One key dish in Georgian cooking is Khinkali , which are a dumpling stuffed with spiced meat in a hot broth – it’s a challenge to eat without dribbling broth all down your Lelos Rugby shirt!
Rather delicious and omnipresent at Georgian feasts is Khachapuri, a type of bread stuffed with cheese. Nuts feature heavily in Georgian cooking especially walnuts but also hazelnuts and herbs such as coriander often combined to make sauces or dips.
Good match day food would be Qababi, meat kebabs marinated with Sumac and wrapped into hot flat bread. Look out also for cheeses such as Sulguni.
For some inspiration, try the cookbook Mamushka by chef of the moment, http://oliahercules.com – her recipes include a whole variety from the Caucasus mountains and around including some from Georgia as well.
Beer: Kazbegi and Natakhtari are two leading brands of beer in Georgia – try some of the specialist beer stockists listed on the relevant page.
Wine: Perhaps surprisingly to many people (unless Russian!), Georgia is known as the Cradle or Birthplace of Wine and is one of the oldest vine growing regions in the world, with proof of wine being made in the area since 6000 BC.
There is a wide difference in styles (and quality) of wine produced in Georgia today. Saperavi is the main red grape variety and is still made by many producers in Qveri. Similar in appearance to stone amphora, they are terracotta fermentation vessels that are buried in the ground – a fascinating way of making wines which is gaining lots of followers throughout the wine world from Sicily to Chile. Both whites and reds made in the style are unconventional to modern tastes – the whites in particular, falling under the “orange” wine grouping – and are very much marmite wines (you either love or hate!)
For the white wines, look out for grape varieties of the versatile Rkatsiteli or the aromatic Mtsvane.
Some producers worth seeking out.
http://www.since1011.com/en (the fascinating Alaverdi Monastery)
Some of these stockists below list a range of Georgian wines:
www.lescaves.co.uk quirky independent wine merchant who has an amazing list from around the world (especially if you like orange and natural wines).
www.geowines.org – who stock one of the most respected wine producers, Telavi.
National Drink: Although Georgia vies with Armenia for the best Brandy producer in that part of the world, there is also the local version of grappa knowns as Chacha (available via the above stockists). Far be it from me (as a grappa lover!) to be boring – but all I can say is – be wary!